[Originally published at vikinglaw.us]
For the same reason you should refer a case out. It’s in the client’s best interest.
A friend called me a couple of months ago, and asked for my help. His wife had asked him for a divorce, and he knew that I had handled divorces before. But this one was going to get nasty—custody battle, a fight over property division… I know just the lawyer for you to call, I said.
“But I want you to be my lawyer. I know you. I trust you.”
I appreciate that—I really do. But trust isn’t the most important issue. If I were to take your case, I’d be doing you a disservice. You have kids, you have a house, and you have a bitter fight coming. I’m not the right lawyer to handle all that.
I referred him to a classmate from law school, and things have gone relatively well thus far because both parties have great lawyers. Score one for the good guys.
Another friend called me not too long after. His cousin had been picked up on a federal drug & weapons charge. Pretty straightforward stuff, but I referred him to another lawyer all the same.
“But I want you to be my cousin’s lawyer. I know you. I trust you.”
I appreciate that—I really do. But trust isn’t the issue. I’m not the right lawyer to handle the case.
The same argument applied.
Why did I farm them out? Could I have handled the cases? Sure. I was in the planning stage for the launch of my own practice, and I could certainly benefit from some immediate fees coming in the door.
But I would have to spend ten or twenty hours just figuring out how to get my ducks in a row. I can’t bill a client for all that learning. I referred the cases out because I don’t handle contested divorces or felony cases, and gaining the base knowledge necessary to properly advise these clients would take away from building my core practice.
The same idea applies to the procedures involved with foreign defendants and overseas witnesses. Your clients trust you. They want you in the driver’s seat as their case winds its way through the labyrinth. But international procedures are arcane, complex, and often quite counterintuitive to a common law attorney.
Couldn’t any lawyer figure them out, though? Of course they could. I don’t know a single lawyer who couldn’t navigate these issues given the right research tools and sufficient time.
But they have to spend several hours just figuring out how to get their ducks in a row—and their client won’t be excited about paying for those hours. They don’t handle service of process abroad on a regular basis, and gaining the base knowledge necessary to properly effect service would take away from their core practices.
Serving a summons abroad, compelling evidence production in a foreign land… yes, these can be done, but the cost to the client—and to the lawyer—is significantly higher than hiring somebody who handles them routinely.
This is why Viking Advocates exists. To save the attorney time and resources, not only in once litigation has commenced, but even earlier—when the lawyer is mapping out a strategy. We will consult at every stage of the process, and save everybody a good deal of time, money, and energy.